Once an Irradiated Wasteland, Chernobyl Now Holds a 3,800 Panel Solar Farm

Chernobyl, the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster, is now being re-purposed as the site of solar farms. The land may be uninhabitable for thousands of years, but it can at least be useful.

In 1986, a nuclear facility in Chernobyl, Ukraine experienced a catastrophic failure that resulted in the worst nuclear accident in human history. Two plant workers were killed on the night of the incident and 28 more died as a result of radiation exposure over the next few weeks. The event also left the area uninhabitable due to toxic levels of radiation in the air and soil.

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The event has long been used as an example of the folly of using nuclear power in place of traditional means such as coal. A culture of safety and alarmism grew around the creation of nuclear power plants even though the catastrophe that occurred at Chernobyl could almost certainly never happen again due to new regulations and procedures.

Soon, however, Chernobyl will get a chance to redeem itself. The site of the nuclear disaster of 1986 will be host to a solar plant, completing its journey in being a forebearer of alternative energies. 

3,800 photovoltaic panels are being installed a hundred meters away from the location of the reactor core that melted, causing the disaster. A shell of concrete and steel called the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Sarcophagus was built around the disaster area immediately after the incident. The Chernobyl New Safe Confinement structure was put fully into place in 2016 and acts as a final tomb for the reactor, reducing the spread of radiation and lowering the chance of another disaster.

The New Safe Confinement structure has reduced levels of radiation in the immediate vicinity of the disaster area to one-tenth of their previous levels. 

Once an Irradiated Wasteland, Chernobyl Now Holds a 3,800 Panel Solar Farm
New Safe Confinement. Source: Tim Porter/Wikimedia Commons

The solar plant will produce one megawatt of electricity for the local power grid which is enough to power roughly 2,000 homes. The site is ideal for the creation of such a plant because it is already set up to the electricity grid due to the existence of the power plant that melted down. Much of that equipment is still usable and with maintenance will be able to support the solar power grid for a long time.

Ukraine has also planned to put aside more land that was previously unusable for the purpose of creating solar farms. Another similar solar site was constructed in Belarus, also within the radiation zone. Because the solar grid can be placed on top of concrete slabs, their construction does not require digging or drilling, which is still dangerous and forbidden in the disaster area. Thus, solar plants are the perfect way to make Chernobyl a usable space once again.

The area is reported to be unfit for human habitation for up to 24,000 years, but industry such as solar plants can be safely erected and maintained, making the land usable.